On July 28th, 1980, the debut album by Zapp was released. The song More Bounce To The Ounce was its single. A revolutionary and fantastic album and song. Zapp would grow out to be an extremely influential electro funk band. Unfortunately, the story ended in an unspeakable tragedy. The bizarre story of Zapp.
The first signs of life by the family Troutman was the album Introducing Roger by Roger & The Human Body in 1976. Roger Troutman also guested on 1976’s song Wanna Make Love (Flick My Bic) by Sun. During those days, Roger Troutman already used his unique talk-box, a vocoder whose signals were routed through a synthesizer, which enabled him to create and use a robotic kind of voice. Before 1976 Roger Troutman and his brothers had played in various bands. The funk and soul was part of the family’s DNA.
In 1977 the band name was changed to Zapp. They befriended Phelps “Catfish” Collins and William Earl “Bootsy” Collins, both players with George Clinton’s genius funk collective Parliament-Funkadelic. In 1978 Roger Troutman wrote More Bounce To The Ounce. Following Clinton’s advice, Troutman brought the demo to Warner Bros. The band was signed on the spot.
Zapp – Zapp
Zapp’s debut album was released on July 28th, 1980. The album was produced by Bootsy Collins. It contains the monumental More Bounce To The Ounce, one the funkiest songs I know. The heavy beat, with the handclaps, the funky bass, the subtle guitars and Zapp’s signature sound element, the talk-box resulted in a highly distinctive and unique sound.
The single More Bounce To The Ounce was a huge dance smash. It helped in generating great sales for the accompanying album, which went gold. Not bad for a debut.
All songs written by Roger Troutman.
- More Bounce To The Ounce
- Brand New Player
- Funky Bounce
- Be Alright
- Coming Home
The Many Facets Of Roger
After the release of the debut album the relationship between Troutman and Clinton soured. Clinton had cooperated on Troutman’s solo debut and paid for much of the expenses. In the early 1980s Clinton’s lack of business skills became apparent and he was losing touch with the current developments in music. Troutman was aware of it and accepted a higher offer from Warner Bros. to finish his album. Clinton never forgave Troutman. The story goes that the final collapse of Clinton’s business and musical empire was caused by the costs he made for Troutman’s debut album, without seeing any of it in return. According to rumor, the costs were about $5 million.
In August 1981 the debut album by Roger (the artist name for Roger Troutman), The Many Facets Of Roger, was released. It was a huge success. The album even reached platinum status.
Zapp – Zapp II
On October 14th, 1982, the second Zapp album was released: Zapp II. The album has a slightly less p-funk feel than its predecessor. The album contained another hit with Dance Floor. Once again a highly addictive dance song, to which sitting still is not an option.
This album was a hit as well, also reaching gold status.
All songs written by Roger and Larry Troutman.
- Dance Floor
- Playin’ Kinda Ruff
- Doo Wa Ditty (Blow That Thing)
- Do You Really Want an Answer?
- Come On
- A Touch of Jazz (Playin’ Kinda Ruff Part II)
In July 1983 the third Zapp album, Zapp III, was released. The album still reached gold status, but it was less successful than the first two. When The New Zapp IV U arrived in 1985 the band had lost its momentum. In 1989 the fifth Zapp album V, or Vibe, was released.
In the meantime Roger’s solo career went on as well. In 1984 Roger’s second solo album, The Saga Continues!, saw the light of day. In 1987 Unlimited! was released, in 1991 followed by Bridging The Gap.
In October 1993 the compilation album Zapp & Roger – All The Greatest Hits was released. It was an immediate smash, quickly reaching platinum status.
The album’s success, as well as the frequent use of Zapp samples in hip-hop, gained Roger Troutman and Zapp a lot of appreciation and even more respect. In 1995 Troutman (and his talk-box) contributed background vocals to the 2Pac single California Love. He also played a part in the accompanying video. It was the biggest hit Troutman was associated with in his entire career. He was even (co) nominated for a Grammy in 1997.
Brothers Roger and Larry Troutman worked closely together during their tenure within Zapp and Larry was Roger’s manager for many years. When Roger fired Larry it didn’t go down that well. The finances surrounding Troutman Enterprises, which were Larry’s responsiblity, were in shambles as well. The company had to file for bankruptcy and was left behind with a $400,000 debt. It isn’t written in stone, but it seems that that both events were the cause behind the drama that unfolded on April 25th, 1999.
On that Sunday Roger Troutman was shot upon leaving a recording studio. The rush to the hospital was in vain, Roger Troutman passed away. It didn’t take long to discover a car parked a few blocks away, the same car witnesses identified as the drive-by vehicle. The car contained the body of Larry Troutman, who had shot himself in the head.
The music world was saddened and shocked by the drama that had taken place. Roger Troutman, and with him Zapp, was no more.
In 2002 the surviving members did make Zapp VI: Back By Popular Demand, which was inferior to the previous work. The band still performs from time to time.
Zapp is one of the most underestimated funk groups from the 1980s. Their funky rhythms and influence on electro funk haven been of great value to music in general. At the end of the 1980s Zapp’s music was sampled many, many times in hip-hop productions. Just the song More Bounce To The Ounce alone has been sampled over 200 (!) times.
For a short period of time Zapp was the most important funk group in the world. Even though the band never gained the same amount of popularity outside of the US, Zapp was well-known amongst music lovers. Rightfully so. Their first two albums in particular are classics within the (electro)funk genre and are the main inspiration for g-funk, which was co-developed by Dr. Dre at the start of the 1990s.
What’s tour take on Zapp and the first two albums? Let me know!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Zapp, revolutionary electro funk pioneers. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
Zapp & Roger Troutman and his talk-box image: twitter.com
Roger & Larry Troutman grave image: flickriver.com
Zapp’s classic singles More Bounce To The Ounce & Dance Floor image: dutchcharts.nl
All other images: spotify.com